By Maina Kiarie
The Neolithic Age, Era, or Period, or New Stone Age, was a period in the development of human technology, beginning about 9500 BC in some parts of the Middle East, and later in other parts of the world. New findings put the beginning of the Neolithic culture back to around 10,700 to 9400 BC in Tell Qaramel in northern Syria. It is traditionally considered as the last part of the Stone Age. The Neolithic followed the Mesolithic/Epipaleolithic period, beginning with the rise of farming, which produced the “Neolithic Revolution” and ending when metal tools became widespread in the Copper Age (chalcolithic) or Bronze Age or developing directly into the Iron Age, depending on the geographical region. The Neolithic is a measured progression of behavioral and cultural characteristics and changes, including the use of wild and domestic crops and the use of domesticated animals.
The term Neolithic derives from the Greek neos, “new” and lithos, “stone”, literally meaning “New Stone Age.” The term was invented by Sir John Lubbock in 1865 to the refine the three-age system.
Not all of these cultural elements characteristic of the Neolithic appeared everywhere in the same order, e.g. the earliest farming societies in the Near East did not use pottery. In other parts of the world, such as Africa, South Asia and Southeast Asia, independent domestication events led to their own regionally-distinctive Neolithic cultures that arose completely independent of those in Europe and Southwest Asia. Early Japanese societies used pottery before developing agriculture.
Unlike the Paleolithic, where more than one human species existed, only one human species (Homo sapiens sapiens) reached the Neolithic. Homo floresiensis in Flores, Indonesia, may have survived right up to the very dawn of the Neolithic, about 12,000 years ago.
Neolithic peoples were skilled farmers, manufacturing a range of tools necessary for the tending, harvesting and processing of crops (such as sickle blades and grinding stones) and food production (e.g. pottery, bone implements). They were also skilled manufacturers of a range of other types of stone tools and ornaments, including projectile points, beads, and statuettes. But what allowed forest clearance on a large scale was the polished stone axe above all other tools. Together with the adze, fashioning wood for shelter, structures and canoes for example, this enabled them to exploit their newly-won farmland. In Europe, long houses built from wattle and daub were constructed. Elaborate tombs were built for the dead.
Most clothing appears to have been made of animal skins, as indicated by finds of bone pins which are ideal for fastening leather, but not cloth.
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